By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 27 2014 1:56 PM ET
The Internal Revenue Service will pay the antigay National Organization for Marriage $50,000 to settle the lawsuit NOM brought over disclosure of donor names, reports Politico.
The $50,000 represents actual damages, that is, costs NOM incurred as a result of the disclosure. The settlement was announced this week. A federal judge ruled earlier this month that NOM could not claim punitive damages, because although the release of donor names was a mistake on the part of the IRS, it did not reach the level of gross negligence.
In 2011, the IRS supplied a man named Matthew Meisel a copy of of NOM’s 2008 Schedule B, which lists donors who have given $5,000 or more to the organization during the period covered, and he in turn provided it to the Human Rights Campaign the following year, leading to publicity about donors. Schedule B is among the tax records that are publicly available to those who request them, but under law, the donor names are supposed to be redacted. The IRS employee who handled the request did not redact them.
The employee’s action was an inadvertent mistake, but there was no evidence that it resulted from “willfulness or gross negligence,” Judge James C. Cacheris of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled June 3.
NOM called the recovery of actual damages a victory, something the organization, whose mission is to oppose marriage equality, has found hard to come by lately. “Thanks to a lot of hard work, we've forced the IRS to admit that they in fact were the ones to break the law and wrongfully released this confidential information,” NOM chairman John Eastman said in a blog post. He also called for a congressional investigation into the release, and said NOM will seek an additional award of legal fees to offset the cost of bringing the suit.